In October, the story broke of a sheep who was stranded at the base of a Scottish cliff. A kayaker, Jillian Turner, had passed that way two years ago and seen her then, but it was only when she paddled by again recently that it became clear that this sheep was stuck there, all alone, and had been for at least two years.
Sheep are flock animals, and they derive their comfort and sense of security from being with other animals. So, when she saw the kayaker, the sheep called out to her and chased after her for as long as she was able before being left alone once again.
“It is heartrending,” said Turner. “We honestly thought she might make her way back up that first year. The poor ewe has been on her own for at least two years. For a flock animal that has to be torture, and she seemed desperate to make contact with us on the two occasions we’ve gone past her.”
Abandoned by Farmers and Animal Protection Agencies Alike
Turner did all she could to help. She contacted the Cairngorm mountain rescue team who said they couldn’t act without being instructed by the police or the fire service. The Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals told her that the sheep seemed alright and took no action. The farmer was reported as knowing she was there but had not made any concerted effort to retrieve her.
She was failed by all of them and we knew we had to do something.
Boat, Drone, and Ropes
We made a few calls and within the hour a fantastic activist in the Scottish highlands had pledged to try to rescue her, supported by activists from Animal Rising. And overnight, our team worked on geolocating the sheep based on the available information until we felt confident we had pinpointed the craggy section of coastline where she was living.
The waters around that coastline are rough, and a huge storm was coming. Nonetheless, the activists tried to reach the sheep by sea but it was just too dangerous to land. Using a drone, they found her, and were pleased to see she had survived the storm and looked to be in reasonable health. Within days, they had found a way to scramble down the cliffs each day using ropes, so they could visit her and get her used to humans. They found that she had a deep cave in which she could shelter from the storms and sufficient vegetation to survive, but her fleece was very overgrown and heavy.
While plans were being enacted to rescue her, the media furore around this sheep meant that the farmer was receiving unwanted attention for his part in her ordeal. And things were about to come to a head.
The activists devised a plan to haul the sheep up the cliffside inside a purpose-built sledge. However, they reported that the farmer was obstructing them, and so they opened a dialogue with him to try and negotiate her rescue. It seemed to go well.
The farmer allowed them to rescue the sheep, and take her to a sanctuary where she could live in peace with other sheep, safe and secure for the rest of her life. The date and time was agreed, and the activists left to buy the supplies they needed.
While they were gone, the farmer and his friends stepped in, and finally brought the sheep, whom they named Fiona, up the cliff. The photos of these smiling men, clutching onto a clearly traumatized Fiona went around the world. The farmers were the heroes of the hour.
From Abandonment to Exploitation
This covert action certainly remedied the farmer’s reputation. Overnight, he went from being the man who abandoned an animal alone to cope in the most dangerous of locations to the hero who saved a lonely sheep. It was a very good move on his part.
It doesn’t matter to Fiona who rescued her. It matters only that she was rescued. But what happens now really does matter. Instead of being loved and cared for at the sanctuary that was expecting her, the farmer decided instead to send her to a “petting zoo.” There, she will not be Fiona the sheep, an individual who has lived a very difficult life and needs time and space to adjust and heal; she will simply be an attraction for paying visitors to gawp at and pet. And we know that the future of any animal at a petting zoo is uncertain.
Is this a happy ending for Fiona? We don’t know. All we know is that there has been a raft of media stories released — at first saying Fiona had been forced into hiding because of the activists, then a day later saying she was at the zoo, and now that her fleece is being auctioned for charity. It seems that those who abandoned her and then furthered her exploitation are enjoying the limelight, and Fiona — this beautiful sheep who is deserving of so much more — is being used as a pawn in this cynical PR game.
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